[Guest Post] The Canadian Forces C7A2 Upgrade

[ This guest post was written by CanadianSoldier ]

The M-16 rifle is one of the most iconic firearms of all time, becoming well-known as the standard service weapon of the United States and its allies. But few know about the M-16′s close relative, the Canadian-made C7 rifle and C8 carbine, which is in service with the armed forces of Canada, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, and the Netherlands.

Canadian soldiers equipped with the C7A2 rifle

The C7 rifle in Canadian service has gone through several updates, similar to the progress of the M-16 in US service. The rifle entered service with the Canadian Army in the early 1980s as a replacement for the FN-FAL (FN-C1 in Canadian service) rifle at the conclusion of the Small Arms Replacement Program (SARP). They were produced in Canada by Diemaco, under license from Colt. Diemaco has since been bought out by Colt, and is now known as Colt Canada.

The original rifle, the C7 in Canadian service, was essentially an M-16A2 with a few changes. The C7 had an M-16A1 profile carry handle, is capable of fully-automatic fire, and had a cold hammer forged barrel. Diemaco also produced a proprietary M-203 40mm grenade launcher mount for the C7 family, which came as a replacement for the lower handguard.

C7A1 with Diemaco M203 lower handguard. The M203′s iron sight can be mounted on the left or right-hand side of the handguard to suit the operator. It can be seen to the top left of the photo.

C7s were initially issued with Thermold plastic magazines, intended to be discarded on the battlefield after use. However, the Thermold magazines were being re-used and led to malfunctions due to excessive wear. Eventually they were replaced in service by NATO-standard steel magazines.

In 1990, the C7 was superseded in Canadian service by the C7A1, which incorporated a new, railed upper receiver. The new receiver incorporated a weaver-style rail with 14 slots (a Mil-Std 1913 rail has 13 slots). C7A1s were issued with an Elcan C79 3.4x optic and a plastic backup iron sight. C7A1s were also given the Accu-Wedge, which was meant to make the receivers close up tighter to improve accuracy. With the C79 sight in service, marksmanship scores increased significantly, and the shooting qualification tests were revised as a result. The C79 is nitrogen-purged, with a tritium aiming point to give an aiming reference in low light conditions. Adjustments for windage and elevation are done externally via the scope mount.

A Canadian soldier firing a C7A1 on the range. Most C7A1s are not issued with the plastic BUIS, unless CQB training is taking place

Both the C7 and C7A1 had a fixed stock, and a slightly shorter stock was available for smaller-framed soldiers. Around the year 2000, the Army decided to begin a midlife update for the C7A1 to address some shortcomings with the platform. Although the C7A1 had served well in a number of theatres, feedback had been collected and some issues were highlighted. Complaints were focused on the bulk of the rifle, especially when operating from vehicles, as well as an inability to easily mount accessories. In Kosovo, some units were given the KAC M5 RAS for evaluation. These were well-received by the soldiers, but as a cost-cutting measure, the M5 RAS was not incorporated into the final C7A2 design. Complaints were also levelled at the C79 sight, which had a tendency to lose zero due to a poorly designed mount. A number of drop-in changes would be added to make the rifle more ambidextrous for left-handed soldiers.

: A Canadian soldier with C7A2. Note the 4-position stock, green-coloured C79A2 sight, Cadex vertical grip and TRI-AD mount

The C7A2 is created in batches from C7A1s that are sent back to Colt Canada for the service. Regular Force army units were the first to receive the -A2s, with units going overseas getting priority. From there, Army Reserve units in the Combat Arms (Infantry, Armour, Engineers and Artillery) would receive them. It’s unclear at this point whether all C7A1s will be given the update Army-wide. Navy units still use the C7, and it’s unlikely they will receive the upgrade.

This is a list of changes made to the C7A1 to create the C7A2:

  • Upper receiver gets re-blued, with a new barrel and front sight gas block + tube assembly.
  • Charging handle replaced with a ‘tactical’ model designed to be easier for left-handed soldiers to operate
  • Black handguards are replaced with green-coloured ones with new aluminium heat shields to replace worn-out ones.
  • A removable Mil-Std 1913 rail attachment system called TRI-AD (TRIple Aiming Device) is mounted under the front sight, directly on the barrel.
  • Lower receiver gets a carbine-length recoil buffer tube, along with a green-coloured 4-position buttstock.
  • Black pistol grip is changed for a green-coloured model, some come with an Otis GripKit.
  • A sling attachment point is added to the left side of the receiver end plate.
  • A Diemaco-branded ambidextrous magazine release button is added to the lower receiver, identical to the Norgon Ambi-Catch.
  • An ambidextrous fire-selector switch is added to the lower receiver.
  • The C79 sight is replaced with the C79A2 model, which incorporates green-coloured rubber instead of black, as well as a new mount. The mount incorporates a spring designed to reduce zero shift issues.
  • A new bayonet is issued with each C7A2, made by Eickhorn-Sollingen, to replace the Nella bayonet. The new bayonet includes a scabbard with integrated sharpening stone. The scabbard and bayonet are designed to lock together through a lug, to enable the bayonet to cut wire.

To take advantage of the TRI-AD, infantry soldiers are usually issued with a laser aiming device / illuminator, such as the AN/PEQ-2 or AN/PAQ-4, in addition to an Insight M3X weapon light. Rifles are also occasionally issued a drop-in Picatinny rail kit to mount a Cadex folding vertical grip.

C7A2 showing the Elcan C79 optical sight and the plastic BUIS mounted in front. This C7A2 does not have the revised charging handle
A Canadian soldier in Afghanistan. His C7A2 has an AN/PAQ-4, Insight M3X, and Cadex vertical grip mounted. Note the additional Picatinny rail on top of the upper handguard.

[ Many thanks to CanadianSoldier for writing this interesting article. ]



Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • Bob Barker

    I really wish they’d change out that optic.

    Also am I the only one who gets turned off by those old school handguards, especially on a rifle length barrel like that? Not only is it cosmetically fugly I’m sure it contributes to the difficulty of mounting accessories.

    • Personally, I don’t like these handguards neither. But I also don’t like the modern tacticool handguards with rails everywhere. In my opinion, the original M16A1 handguard fits the AR-15 rifles best, as far as “cosmetics” is in question.

    • CanadianSoldier

      We were all a little disappointed that the Army decided to keep the legacy handguards. I think they did it partly as a way to maintain commonality with the Diemaco M203 system, and partly because one of their subcontractors massively increased the cost of the K.A.C. RAS. I think most of us in the combat arms would have preferred to have seen a RAS. The fact is, though, that there aren’t a lot of issued accessories to go around, and using privately-purchased ones isn’t usually welcomed. Most soldiers agree that the TRI-AD is a bad idea, because
      a) it puts weight directly on the barrel, potentially affecting accuracy,
      b) all that weight makes the rifle very front heavy, especially without the bulk of the old stock to balance it out.

    • Nadnerbus

      I personally think they look fine. as long as you can mount 1913 rails strips to them to put a light or a VFG, I think less is more. The more I think about it though, the less I like the tri rail on the gas block. It really would make the rifle front heavy when aiming.

      Drop in rail systems add a not insignificant weight to the rifle. I’m of the opinion that unless they are mission critical, it’s better to leave them at the barracks. Free float is even better, but costs much more.

  • Bob Barker

    Sorry to double post but I mean take a look at the Norwegians have done with the C7/C8. They look like they came right out of the future compared to the Canadian accessorized version.

    Example: http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2011/09/27/royal-netherlands-armys-nifty-c7c8-rifles/

    • Carlos Costa

      Sorry, but those are Dutch troops, not Norwegian.

      • Bob Barker

        Sorry, I was having a brainfart since I was debating if I should *also* include that the Norwegians use C8s as well 😉

  • Alf

    As far as I know, the Norwegian army has never had any C7 rifle or C8 carbine in their armed forces in any widespread use. Only some special-forces use them. The bulk of the military uses Heckler & Koch G3 and lately we have begun changing it to the Heckler & Koch HK416.

    • MNOR

      Alf,

      True, although the Diamaco C8 SFW has been standard Issue for all Norwegian SOF-units since the 90’s. The KJK got tired of waiting on the army to choose a new weapon for the entire millitary so they bought in G36KV3’s trough existing contracts with HK.
      As for the HK416, the G3-swap-out was pretty much completed last year. Everyone should have them by now.

  • Marc

    There is no such thing as a NATO-magazine.

    • charles222

      In the last picture, that’s an AN/PEQ-2 (IR laser + IR floodlight), not an AN/PAQ-4(IR laser only). Also, mounting it like that isn’t the best move; they’re designed to sit on top.

    • 6677

      STANAG magazines where intended to be the NATO magazine until the proposal was dropped.

      • Marc

        A standardization agreement that wasn’t agreed upon isn’t.

  • I believe the C79 sight is the same or nearly the same as the M-145 sight used by the US Army as a sight for the 240 and 249 machine guns.

    • CanadianSoldier

      Matt, you’re pretty close. The M145 sight looks similar on the outside to the C79, but it differs in a few ways. The C79 uses two knobs on the base to secure itself to the receiver’s rail, while the M145 uses a single torque knob. The reticles are also very different, with the M145 using a bullet drop reticle, while the C79 uses a central aiming post with horizontal bars for range estimation. We use the C79 on our C9 LMGs (our version of the M249), and I’ve found that the mounts don’t stand up well to recoil at all.

  • Theodoric

    It’s interesting to see the similarities and differences between the Dutch and the Canadian updates to their C7s and C8s. Both have folding stocks on their C7s (much smarter than simply buying carbines for everyone, like the US Army is doing), both have ambidextrous mag releases, but when it comes to rail systems and the paint job, they wildly differ.

  • 6677

    British forces also have C7 rifles. In particular the SAS are known to use them. Marines and regular troops have also been known to use them on select occasions (and can be seen in an episode of Ross Kemp).

    • JonMac

      C7 and C8 in fact.

  • Walker

    The C-7 is based off the M16a1e3(or 4 can’t remember offhand) the M16a2 came after the C-7. The thermould mags were ditched due to failures from use in cold weather ie the mag would split ejecting everything inside

  • Einar

    Iceland has an army?

    • Jess-Avery Affentranger

      No, lol.

  • Lance

    The Canadian’s C-7s have some advantages over US M-16 models. They kept the plastic hand guard and added a smaller rail in the front for accessories which keeps it light and comfortable compared to heavy and sharp KAC rail forehand the USMC is using for all weapons. The full auto seeing instead of burst. Finally the regular hand guard modified to use the M-203 instead of a special hand guard to be used.

    The Canadians adopted the C-7 in 1984/5 the USMC adopted the A2 in 1983 so the A2 came first. I think we can learn from the Canadian use of the M-16 design when we make upgrades to the M4 and A4 weapons in the next few years.

    • jdun

      Yeah KAC are pretty heavy. There are better alternative to them.

      • Dave

        Currently, it seems the Daniel Defense Rail system seems to be the best RAS available.

    • Dave

      2 more advantages of the C8 over the M4:
      -It has a higher MRBF and a cold hammer forged barrel.
      -Standard light profile M4 barrel will launch a round through the side @540 rounds during extensive full auto fire till destruction testing. CHF barrel would last much longer in such torture testing. While this isn’t a huge problem and soldiers would probably never fire so much on FA, USSOCOM did request the heaver M4A1 barrel b/c of this reason.

      • Nadnerbus

        I would think the gas tube would be the first failure point in both setups, but I get your point.

      • Dave

        @Nadnerbus- Yup, the gas tube would be the first thing to fail but USSOCOM did actually request the heavy barrel for the M4A1 b/c testing showed the light barrel would rupture at around 540 rounds. A modern op rod design would solve the gas tube failure problem for such extreme torture tests though.

    • William C.

      Hi Lance, while it is true the TRI-AD RAS on the C7/C8 is lighter, I’ve heard it is less popular than fully-integrated RAS options for various reasons. The KAC M4/M5 used on the M4 and M16 has proven itself, but we can and should field a better system today.

      I’ll agree about full-auto however. When the USMC switched to the M16A4, and the Army switched to the M4, both services should have gone back to full-auto instead of the 3-round burst mode.

      • CanadianSoldier

        The TRI-AD has mixed reviews among the troops. As I mentioned in another comment, the device makes the rifle quite front-heavy. One other downside is that if you’re a grenadier, you won’t be able to mount anything on the TRI-AD on the side where the M203’s iron sight is. For grenadiers, they are issued a separate rail section to mount on top of the handguard so they have somewhere to mount the PAQ-4 or PEQ-2. Grenadiers have it the worst, because the M203 plus two accessories makes for an extremely forward-heavy rifle. It’s not an ideal solution, but it does work.

  • John Doe

    They need to move towards a gas system similar to the HK416 and left-hand ejection. The first couple months I used a M16 in the Marines, the shells ejecting so close to my face scared the hell out of me. Colt (Diemaco) doesn’t make very reliable rifles either.

    • 18D

      Why would you switch to left hand ejection if most troops are right handed? If you were scared, then you need to shoot more and get used to it. Most AR shooters don’t even notice the ejecting brass on a standard AR. If you are right handed, why would you want brass thrown into your Arm and face?

    • Nadnerbus

      left hand ejection would throw the brass even closer to the face of a right handed shooter. That is the whole reason for right side ejection for right handed shooters. The case deflector is there to make sure the case doesn’t fly backwards at you or the next guy on the firing line. So i don’t quite understand your point on that issue.

      I also still remain unsold on the idea that piston ARs are superior in reliability to DI ARs. Less heat and fowling in the receiver to be sure, more up front at the gas block. But I’m more of the opinion that the reliablity is more closely related to the quality of the rifle and the upkeep by the user.

    • CanadianSoldier

      About Colt Canada (Diemaco’s) alleged reliability issues – I’m curious, what evidence are you basing your opinion on?

      • jdun1911

        He has no proof. Brainwashed by piston AR marketing department.

  • Lance

    A definite NO on a left handed model for the military the fact is left handed models burn the hand of right handed users! Trust me its happened to me. As for a Piston there not as much as many think the fact is DI works very well and using correct powders is clean too a Piston causes its own problems and will take time to correct. The Canadians are doing the right approach to her small arms..

    • Bandito762

      funny, i am left handed and have never been burned by a right handed model AR

  • Patriot_man

    Come on… A TRI-AD rail and M3X’s? Tell me the M3X’s are at least the LED ones.

    • 18D

      X variants are the LED versions.

      • Domestic Squirrel

        Wrong. ‘X’ variants are built to tougher standards than non ‘X’ variants.

  • Alexander
  • gunfighter2012

    Many thanks to our friends up north. But another 600 word article on the mind numbing minutiae of yet ANOTHER m16 variant………….

  • Lance

    From what Ive seen I say 3 thing great about the Canadian weapons vs 3 good things of US weapons.

    Canada:

    Better rail system than the heavy KAC RAS and use or regular plastic hand guards for more comfort and light weight. I think the Canadian system if slightly lengthened would be great for US troops as well. Trust me I have a National match barrel on my competition A4 and its heavy alone little lone the quad rails adding weight.

    Full Auto over 3rd burst. Yeah any one knows this the fact is that the US Army is finally dumping burst to go with full auto on the M-4A1 and the new coming M-4A2 there making. As for Marines they’re trained on the most part to shoot semi auto and burst training is stressed far more than in the Army so the USMC is staying with burst.

    Cold forged barrels and heavy profile. This is mixed yeah its heaver to pack. BUT it can take alot more punishment than a A1 low profile (under the hand guards) barrel can take. The problem isn’t rally covering 20ich A2 and A4 barrels so the USN and USMC isn’t really covered by the debate. fact is the longer barrel don’t heat up as fast and don’t receive higher pressure the shorter carbine gas system has. The M-4 dose have a issue with barrel life due to stress. However the M-4A1 and coming A2 will have heavy profile barrels so this may be fixed. have to wait and see.

    Pro USA features:

    Trijicon ACOG sight instead of ELCAN BIG boost in light weight all time illumination and the system has reliable back up sights. It also has flash killers on it to prevent reflection from the sun to give a mans position away. The mount is far more sturdy and wont get lose to knock zero off target.

    Better iron Sights. Ok I know many will fight over this BUT as a man who was raised by a pre-60s solder and also by Marines I got to know and love the system on the M-16A2 and the detachable one on the M-16A4. The ability to adjust windage with a plain knob and elevation over the A1 style bullet tip tun about and front sight adjustments is far better in the field. The system is close to the original US sighting system used on M-1s and M-14s and is fully adjustable. Nice if you don’t have a scope that works in the heat of combat.

    Better buttstocks available. I admit im a fan of fixed stocks over collapsible the more stable A2 and A1 stock is better for long range shooting. Skipping the rifle stocks we can agree on the carbine stocks M-4 vs C-8 stocks. However the 6 position stock on current M-4s and the Magpul but-stocks kick the old Colt 4 position stocks Canadian rifle have by two bits. More stable less rattling and smother on the shooters cheek.

    the fact is the Army will upgrade the M-4 for the new decade and I hope they can look at not only the LWRC M6 and the HK 416 for reference but look North and get ideas to make the M-4 even more deadly.

  • subase

    What about a fluted barrel? Wouldn’t that offer superior heat dispersion and a better accuracy to weight ratio?

    Australian military is planning to use a fluted barrel on their next Steyr Aug variant. Called the EF88.

  • JC

    Excellent Article. I have always wondered about the differences between the C7 and the M16.

  • AI

    Found an error in the article.

    There are no armed forces in Iceland.

    The closest thing is the “special squad” within the otherwise unarmed police force. They use the HK G36.

  • Informative article, Reading this article I know the real difference between C7 rifle and C8 carbine. Thanks